On a rainy Saturday morning at half past seven my friend, Huzefa Rangwala (also known as the loitering lamb on my blog) and I took a cab ride to the Balwant Sheth School of Architecture to attend their annual design workshop. The college located in Vile Parle is part of a private university called Narsee Monjee Institute of Managements Studies. As part of their workshop the college invited artists and architects all week-long to present and share thoughts and ideas with students. The workshop culminated with a display of the first and second year architecture student work.
The dean, Mr. Trilochan M. Chhaya a practising architect himself has an ambitious vision for the school. He believes that a good all-around education consisting of research, analysis and in-depth thinking will well equip the students to be problem solvers of the future. Students are given the freedom of expressing themselves through various mediums of art such as filmmaking, storytelling, music and writing to name a few.
Rangwala was one of the presenters at the annual design workshop held by the school. He shared with the students his design build project, a study as part of his specialization in the Design of Digital Manufacturing. His presentation was well received and students seemed overwhelmed and did not hesitate to ask questions. After his presentation Rangwala zoomed off to Alibag for a client meeting.
Next presentation was about situationist international which was presented by a Columbia alumni, Rajeev Thakker. I was unaware of this movement before so this was a great opportunity to learn about this group and their methods to bring about change.
Following the presentation as I began walking down the corridor(hallways) to see some student work, a professor and the deans son Atreya Chhaya pulled me aside and asked me to join the panel of guests that were there to review student work. The panel consisted of Thakker and two other young architects.
Chhaya briefed us on the projects that were on display. The first year students project was titled, ‘The Body in Motion and the Body as a Machine; the City in Motion and the City as a machine.’ Here students studied and analyzed movements such as hand gestures, jaw movements, spinal cord behavior and then created three-dimensional objects that illustrated these mechanical movements. The second part of the project required students to analyze movements in the city; students followed the dabbawallas(lunch delivery boys), some documented the various movements at chowpatty(beach) and some observed dhobis(laundrymen) all day long at dhobi ghat (well-known washers area in Bombay). These movements were then analysed and presented as three-dimensional scaled models that worked as machines incorporating both – mechanical movements of the machines used as well as the human movement involved.
The second year students project was called the Game of Life, where they studied phenomenons or patterns that exist in nature such as the way a school of fish attacks or encircles it’s prey. These natural systems were then decoded and represented in an abstract format by building full-scale models illustrating the use of information and solutions that exists in nature.
Reviewing student work was a refreshing experience for me – it was also a learning opportunity for me. I told the students that they are the masters of their own topic and that they need to dumb it down for me to understand. I hope that the students enjoyed the dialogue as much as I did. The students mostly decoded the information very well and the analysis transpired into though provoking results but in some cases the understanding was lost in execution; such as dynamic systems became static and choice of materials were not the most natural and seemed forced. However I hope the students realized that this was a small step towards understanding how systems in nature exist harmoniously and the information extracted could well be applied towards smart and responsible building systems. Through out our conversations the students insisted on addressing me as ‘Sir,’ which I found to be rather amusing.
The school is fortunate to have the resources and intend to launch a Design and Research publication that will help students further investigate new methodologies and encourage self-exploration. This investment must be applauded as it is vital to nurture these agents of change that will help shape the future of a developing country.
Before leaving I walked up to professor Chhaya and thanked him for giving me the opportunity to interact with students and letting me attend the workshop even though I was not an invited guest. He said that he observed my enthusiasm and interaction with the students and recommended that I seriously think about teaching and being a part of this institution.